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COVID-19 - info for the public


COVID-19 is the sickness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. 

Click here to learn about the symptoms and long-term effects of COVID-19 sickness.

How is the virus spread?

If you get a COVID-19 infection, there will be a lot of the virus in your nose and throat, which can be spread easily to other people by coughing, sneezing, sharing things like cups, smoking, singing or even talking.  

If we are physically close to someone who has COVID-19 (within a couple of metres), we can breathe the virus in. Not only this, but we can also catch the virus by touching objects that someone with COVID-19 has already touched, like a door handle or table, and then touching our face.  

How sick can I get from COVID-19?

While most people will only have a mild form of the virus, some people will get very sick and need to be in hospital. We are more likely to need to be in a hospital if we are older than 30 years and have chronic medical conditions like heart or lung disease, diabetes, severe chronic kidney or liver disease, brain, nerve or spinal cord conditions, or active cancer. If you have COVID-19 and a chronic medical condition, you can check in with your healthcare provider.

If you feel very unwell, such as having chest pain or difficulty breathing, then call 000 for an ambulance. 

How can I stop the spread of COVID-19?

There are a lot of ways to reduce the spread of the virus, including:

  • Keeping physically apart (at least 1.5 metres away) from people who are not normally living with us 
  • Staying home if you are unwell 
  • Washing hands frequently with soap and water or hand sanitiser 
  • Coughing or sneezing into your elbow 
  • Being up to date with COVID 19 vaccination  
  • Wearing a face mask outside the home in crowded spaces, in all health care settings and on public transport.

More information about protecting yourself and helping stop the spread of COVID-19 here.

When should I get tested for COVID 19?

You should get tested for COVID-19 if:

  • You have symptoms of the illness— even if your symptoms are mild; or
  • You have been advised to do so by a health professional

If you are at high risk of developing severe COVID-19 illness you should contact your health care provider about getting a PCR test for COVID-19 and other viruses.

What should I do if I return a positive COVID-19 test?

If you return a positive COVID-19 test, remember that it is normal to feel worried or scared.

Follow the recommendations on the SA Health website to stop the spread of COVID-19 here.

Monitor your symptoms while you stay at home. If you need health support while managing symptoms at home, call Healthdirect on 1800 022 222 or contact your health provider.

In an emergency, where you have symptoms like difficulty breathing at rest or chest pain, ring 000 and tell them you tested COVID-19 positive.

COVID-19 positive again?

Just like other illnesses, COVID-19 can be caught more than once. Oral treatments can be taken as many times as needed if you're at high-risk of serious illness. Speak to a GP today to find out if you're eligible.

Updated eligibility for oral COVID-19 treatments

Most cases of COVID-19 are mild and can be managed at home. Some people who are at higher risk may need specific antiviral treatments prescribed by their healthcare provider.

Learn about who is eligible for COVID-19 treatments here.

What does being a close contact mean?

  • Close contact includes living with or having spent a lot of time indoors with someone with COVID-19. 
  • People with COVID-19 are considered infectious two days before their symptoms started and while having symptoms. If they have no symptoms they are considered infectious from two days before their positive COVID-19 test was taken up to 10 days after. 
  • If you have had close contact with someone who has COVID-19, you are at an increased risk of getting COVID-19. 

You can find out what to do if this is you, at the SA Health close contact information page.

What is the COVID-19 test and where can I get tested?

You can only have a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test at a pathology testing site if your GP orders one for you.

A Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) can be done at home with a result in 15 minutes. In South Australia, if you test positive on a RAT, in most cases you do not need to get a PCR test to confirm this result. You are considered to be a case of COVID-19. However, if you have had a positive RAT test and this was unexpected (that is, if you have no symptoms or you are not a close contact), then it is still suggested that you get a PCR test to confirm the positive RAT result.

Sometimes if the result is urgent, it is very difficult for the person to isolate or are living remotely, A Point of Care Test may also be possible. 

Free RAT tests are available for:

  • people with disability or who have weakened immune system, or
  • carers of people with disability or who have weakened immune system, or
  • eligible Concession Card holders.

You can find out more about RAT tests, including where you can access a RAT across South Australia here: Rapid Antigen Test.

Testing requirements

The testing requirements in South Australia

Useful links for further information about the COVID-19 virus:

Australian Government Department of Health | What you need to know about COVID-19